With refund season well underway and the average direct deposit tax refund being over $3,000 last tax season, we are hearing the common tax season question: “Where’s My Refund?”
We know that you work hard for your money and that your tax refund may be the biggest check you get all year, so we’re here to let you know what happens after you hit the e-file button and how to check the status of your tax refund.
Here is a breakdown of IRS processing times, how your tax return will progress through 3 stages with the IRS (“Return Received,” “Return Approved,” and “Refund Sent” once you e-file), and where you can go to check your refund status.
Refund Processing Time
- E-filed tax returns with direct deposit: E-file with direct deposit is the fastest way to get your federal tax refund. The IRS states that nine out of 10 e-filed tax returns with direct deposit will be processed within 21 days of IRS e-file acceptance.
- Mailed paper returns: Refund processing time is 6 to 8 weeks from the date the IRS receives your tax return.
- Start checking status 24 – 48 hours after e-file: Once you have e-filed your tax return, you can check status using IRS Where’s My Refund? You will not be able to start checking the status of your tax refund for 4 weeks if you mail a paper tax return.
- Return Received Notice within 24 – 48 hours after e-file: The IRS Where’s My Refund tool will show “Return Received” status once they begin processing your tax return. You will not see a tax refund date until the IRS finishes processing your tax return and approves your tax refund.
- Status change from “Return Received” to “Refund Approved”: Once the IRS finishes processing your tax return and confirms your tax refund is approved, your status will change from “Return Received” to “Refund Approved.” While the change in status can take a few days, it could also take longer, and a refund date will not be provided in Where’s My Refund? until your tax return is processed and your tax refund is approved.
- Where’s My Refund? tool shows refund date: The IRS will provide a personalized refund date once your status moves to “Refund Approved.” The IRS issues nine out of 10 refunds within 21 days of acceptance if you e-file with direct deposit.
- Where’s My Refund? shows “Refund Sent”: If the status in Where’s My Refund? shows “Refund Sent,” the IRS has sent your tax refund to your financial institution for direct deposit. It can take 1 to 5 days for your financial institution to deposit funds into your account. If you opted to receive your tax refund via mail, it could take several weeks for your check to arrive.
Here are more answers to your common tax refund questions:
Will I see a date right away when I check status in “Where’s My Refund”?
Where’s My Refund tool will not give you a date until your tax return is received, processed and your tax refund is approved by the IRS.
It’s been longer than 21 days since the IRS has received my tax return and I have not received my tax refund. What’s happening?
Some tax returns take longer than others to process depending on your tax situation. Some of the reasons it may take longer include incomplete information, an error, or the IRS may need to review it further.
The Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes (PATH) Act, signed into law in December 2015, requires the IRS to hold tax refunds that include Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC) until February 15, 2019, regardless of what method you used to file your taxes. The IRS began accepting and processing tax returns when they opened for the season on January 28, 2019. Tax refunds for those who claim Earned Income Tax Credit or Additional Child Tax Credit will begin to be issued on February 15, 2019, so there’s no need to wait! The sooner you e-file your tax return, the sooner you’ll get your tax refund. The IRS expects that the earliest that taxpayers claiming the EITC or ACTC will start seeing tax refunds is February 27, 2019, if taxpayers chose e-file with direct deposit and there are no other issues with their tax return.
I requested my money be automatically deposited into my bank account, but I was mailed a check. What happened?
The IRS is limiting the number of direct deposits that go into a single bank account or prepaid debit card to three tax refunds per year. Your limit may have been exceeded.
Haven’t filed your taxes yet? Get that much closer to your tax refund and file today. You may even be able to e-file your federal and state tax returns for free with TurboTax Free Edition and have your federal tax refund in your pocket within 21 days.
Don’t worry about knowing tax laws. TurboTax will ask you simple questions about you and give you the tax deductions and credits you are eligible for based on your answers. If you have questions, you can connect live via one-way video to a TurboTax Live CPA or Enrolled Agent with an average of 15 years of experience to get your tax questions answered. A TurboTax Live CPA or Enrolled Agent can also review, sign and file your tax return without you leaving the house.
Lisa Lewis is a CPA and the TurboTax Blog Editor. Lisa has 15 years of experience in tax preparation. Her success is attributed to being able to interpret tax laws and help clients better understand them. Lisa also has been a TurboTax product user for many years and understands how the software program works. In addition to extensive tax experience, Lisa also has a very well-rounded professional background. She has held positions as a public auditor, controller, and operations manager. Prior to becoming the TurboTax Blog Editor, she was a Technical Writer for the TurboTax Consumer Group and worked on a project to write new FAQs to help customers better understand tax laws. She could also be seen helping TurboTax customers with tax questions during Lifeline. For Lisa, getting timely and accurate information out to customers to help them is paramount.